Last chance to support the Saint Michael's Hospice Leap Year Appeal in Harrogate

A woman whose husband was able to die peacefully at home has praised Saint Michael’s Hospice for all of its help and support during “the hardest time” of her family’s life.

Thursday, 27th February 2020, 11:17 am
Updated Thursday, 27th February 2020, 11:40 am

Jan Kestell has said she is eternally grateful to the hospice’s Home Care team for enabling her to honour the last wishes of her husband Steve Risdale and that she wants everyone to feel as supported as she did during such a heartbreaking time.

It comes as we are now in the closing stages of our Leap Year appeal with Saint Michael’s, aiming to raise £15,500 to help the hospice provide an extra day of care this February.

Jan Kestell has praised the services of Saint Michael's for allowing her late husband Steve to die peacefully at home.

Jan said that both her and Steve’s darkest days would have been even darker had it not been for the care of the team at Saint Michael’s who spent five months looking after Steve at their family home.

Following his diagnosis with pulmonary hypertension in 2017, just ten years after Jan was diagnosed with breast cancer, Jan says Steve was adamant that he wanted to die at home, surrounded by his loved ones.

She said: “We were no strangers to difficult times - with my cancer in the past and various issues with the kids. But Steve was always our rock - he was the one who supported us all through everything, so it was really important to us that we were able to reciprocate that and give him what he wanted.”

In January 2018, Steve, pictured, was admitted to hospital - and left three days later with an end-of-life care team.

Steve Risdale was able to have his final wishes honoured thanks to the services of Saint Michael's.

Jan said: “Our life was just changed within 24 hours. He walked in there and came out in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank. It was surreal. I had to witness his Do Not Resuscitate order and I just wasn’t expecting to do that, not then.”

Steve, who Jan describes as an “alpha male” and a “larger than life character”, then had to face his next challenge - adapting to having carers coming to his home every day.

But Jan has said she can’t thank the carers at Saint Michael’s enough for their patience and perseverance when looking after Steve.

She said: “He was a handful, to say the least. He was a big, independent man and he really didn’t want anybody doing things for him.

Jan, Steve and their family.

“But the care team were amazing - they respected him so much and never pushed him to do things he didn’t like.”

Jan says that having such a caring and committed team at home enabled her to continue to work and was a huge help with taking the pressure off.

Although she was apprehensive at first about having new people entering her family home and fitting into their life, she said that by the end of the five months she found it hard to imagine her family’s life without them.

Steve was a "larger than life" character who enjoyed travelling.

She said: “At home we are very private people - Steve was in particular. So having people come into our home everyday was a real shock to the system, but they always persevered and went above and beyond to make us feel safe and comfortable with them.

“Our wishes were always adhered to and they were more than happy to adapt things to exactly how we wanted them - they were great.

“It’s a big thing, coming into someone else’s home every day for five months, but they fit in so well and they became like part of the family.

“Steve absolutely loved them by the end.”

During Steve’s last few months, the couple, who had been together for over 17 years, decided to get married at home - surrounded by the Saint Michael’s care team.

She added: “They made our day so special, we just couldn’t have been happier. They gave us cards, helped Steve to get ready and even witnessed the ceremony.

“It was a beautiful day filled with love and family. We will all cherish that memory forever.”

Jan describes her family as “unorthodox” or “quirky”, but says that the home care team at Saint Michael’s never batted an eyelid about anything that they wanted and were always very respectful.

She said: “Even when Steve was outside, in his workshop or working on his projects, they never tried to control him or change him.

“They were so respectful of our family, our working hours, our quirks and traditions - they were so good at making us feel comfortable in such a strange and tough situation.”

And when the heartbreaking day did come to say goodbye to Steve, Jan says the team could not have been more attentive or supportive.

Despite Jan and Steve’s plan not working exactly as they had hoped, the care team were there every step of the way.

She said: “We had an idea of how we wanted things to go when Steve died, but things don’t always go as planned and the team were amazing at helping me realise that wasn’t my fault. I was in pieces but they were so supportive and understanding with me.

“They helped us to honour his last wish and he died at home, surrounded by his family, his dog and with his own music - all on his own terms.

“The hospice Home Care team made that possible and we will forever be grateful.”

How Saint Michael's can support those who wish to stay at home:

Saint Michael’s is well known for the services offered from its Harrogate Crimple House Hospice, but perhaps less known for the work it is doing in the community, in people’s homes.

One of these services is HOME. As part of this service, healthcare assistants visit people living with terminal illness in their own homes to offer support with personal care, daily activities such as bathing and eating, monitoring and management of symptoms.

The service helps people to return from hospital sooner, feel more comfortable, and achieve their wish to stay in and receive care and support from the place they call home, in familiar surroundings with family and friends and things that matter to them.

Last year the HOME Service saw 150 patients, caring for twice as many people at home as they did the year before.

The majority of the funding for this service comes from Harrogate and Rural District Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), and can therefore be accessed by patients assessed for a particular NHS funding package, as part of a wider package of care delivered by healthcare professionals from various local organisations.

To continue caring for as many people as possible, Saint Michael’s Hospice must also fundraise to supplement the statutory funding it receives as part of this vital service.

How you can support our appeal:

This leap year, we are asking you to support Saint Michael’s to raise £15,500 – the cost of an extra day of care and support.

By making a donation and supporting Saint Michael’s, you are ensuring the needs of the communities they care for are met.

The Harrogate Advertiser is calling on people across the Harrogate district to get involved and help Saint Michael’s raise the £15,500 it needs.

Here are the ways you can donate -

By visiting the Just Giving page hereYou can call on 01423 878 628 to make a donation.

The charity will be accepting donations at Harrogate town centre’s M&S on Friday, February 28, between 11am and 2pm.

You can also make a donation on Saturday, February 29 in any of the 12 Saint Michael’s shops across the district. Just ask a member of staff if you would like to donate.